Lessons from a Well-Loved Life

mary-jane-wavingSeveral years ago, we asked Sister Mary Jane Wallace to reminisce about her life as a Benedictine. She brought scrapbooks, photos, typed notes and laugh-out-loud stories.

Sr. Mary Jane is still a dynamo at 85. She continues to teach piano to children and adults, write skits for community celebrations and work on a book about her ministries. And all of that is what she does in between our daily Benedictine prayer schedule.

Sr. Mary Jane entered the Benedictine community in the manner of most young women who became Sisters in the 40’s. That is, immediately upon graduation from high school she applied and entered religious life.

She loved it immediately.

“I have been blessed immensely in this life,” she says. “My mother died when I was 2-½ years old. I think she must have interceded for me and said, ‘Lord, take care of my little girl for me.’ I had so much love from my Sisters and my students. I’d recommend this life to anyone. It puzzles me why more women aren’t knocking at the door.”

If Sr. Mary Jane has anything to say about it, a few more will knock after reading about her experiences. Because, she says, her experiences were so rich. Here’s a sampling.

Becoming a Sister
“Reception Day was so exciting. We entered the church in bridal dresses and veils, and after the Gospel received our black habits. We left to change, and marched back into the church to the beautiful Sponsa Christi hymn. We also received our new names. Mine was Sister Mary David of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. We were given the option to take our baptismal names back after Vatican II, so I did.”

“I loved every aspect of it. I loved the innocence and honesty of the young children. I remember the dad of a Kindergartner who told me this story. They were at the supper table when Tommy asked what they should get me for Christmas. ‘What do you think we should get her, Tommy?’ ‘Oh Dad, let’s get her a new dress. She wears that same black one every day!’

“Another little girl asked me if I lived in Heaven. ‘Not yet, but I hope to get there,’ I told her.

“Another child asked me how many children I had. I told her I had 50, the combined number of my morning and afternoon students. My answer really didn’t change when she explained that she meant children of my own. My students were my kids, and I’m still in touch with many today. You couldn’t ask for more love!”

A Lesson to Share
“Children will remember not what you taught them – or showed them or helped them with – but how you loved them. How you touched them with kindness. They will fill you with love and hugs and affirmation that you will keep all of your life.”

Religious Life Today

“I’m glad I had the experience of wearing the habit … although I wouldn’t want to do so again. It had a real tendency to make other people feel that because we wore habits we were more holy. But this isn’t so. Remember, everyone has a vocation. But your vocation isn’t about what you wear. It’s about who you are!”

Discerning Your Vocation

“Believe it: you do have a vocation. Listen to your heart to discover what it is: marriage, single life, religious. A heart that is happy and full of peace is one that is in sync with God.

“We all have a fear of the unknown. Don’t let fear drive you. You must have faith and trust. God has promised us a hundredfold and is true to His word. I have had this experience for 64 years. Take a chance and see for yourself!”


“Have a sense of humor. I grew up with it. My grandpa was always being asked to tell a story. Here’s one of my favorites.

“Every week this unmarried lady would come into the church and pray before the statue of the Blessed Mother holding Jesus, ‘Holy Mary Mother of God, should I marry Tommy Todd?’ One day a couple of altar boys hid behind the altar and answered, ‘No! No!’ The lady said, ‘You be quiet Baby Jesus. I’m talking to your mother!’

“Learn to laugh. Learn to trust. Say, ‘God show me the way.’ And then really pay attention.”

5 thoughts on “Lessons from a Well-Loved Life

  1. Ingrid Gordon

    Hello Sister Mary Jane,

    I didn’t get to meet you when I was on retreat a few months ago but I just love your interview here. I would love to sit and chat with you. And I love the story of the kindergarten student and the black dress!



  2. Nancy Houston

    What a delightful article about someone who has touched so many peoples lives including mine. I’m thrilled that she was interviewed because she is filled with so much energy and enthusiasm for her vocation and life in general that it’s nice that she can share this with others. God Bless our Sister Mary Jane!!


  3. Mary Kathleen Wallace-Harper

    What a lovely article showing the warmth of your heart, and the love you have for your community. You inspire people by the joyful way you share your life and faith. This is a gift given by all the Sisters. Thanks for your prayers and love over the years. Auntie would be so proud to read this article.


  4. Happy Feast Day my dear friend!

    May the blessings of Peace, joy and God’s abundant graces be always with you! Your article was inspiring and filled with cute stories like the Christmas one and I’m praying that people will knock on the door.
    We will sing……………………and keep laughing as you bring God’s love to all your meet-students, sisters and all God’s gifts. I lit a candle for you today and offering my holy hour for you. Looking forward to our visit at Fazoli’s on the 19th 11:30 a.m.

    Hugs of love,



  5. victoria wallace

    Hello cousin, how are you ? as you see we can now talk on the computer, I am still learning it, so patience is a virtue….
    I just wanted to say hello to you….


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